At Drink Craft Beer we've had a long relationship with pumpkin beer. Going back to 2006 our first experiences with pumpkin beer were Cambridge Brewing Company's fantastic Great Pumpkin Ale, made with real pumpkin. We've had our own internal split feelings on pumpkin beer (Devon likes them, Jeff not so much). We've done multiple large pumpkin beer tastings, leading up to The Great Pumpkin Beer Tasteoff. Over the years, like many, we witnessed the seasonal creep of pumpkin beers coming out in August, then July, which led to Why is Pumpkin Beer Released is August? And we couldn't help but miss the proliferation of pumpkin everything, turning late summer and early fall into "Pumpkin Season." And now are we witnessing the end of the road for pumpkin beer? Or, at least, the end of the fad?
Take a look, based on data from Google Trends, it looks like pumpkin-mania spiked in 2012 and sustained through 2015, showing only a light tapering in that last year. But, with ubiquity, we all know comes hype, then decline. When you're at the top, there's nowhere go but down. And pumpkin beer was at the top for a while, with some breweries making a sizable chunk of their annual revenue and profits off this gourd.
Then, BAM!, comes 2016. A 36% drop in interest in September puts us below 2011 (pre-pumpkin fad) numbers. We could say that people saw it coming. According to Forbes, in 2015 there was a record volume of pumpkin beer left on the shelves after the peak pumpkin beer season ended (read: November). And this year, brewers know it's coming and are cutting production.
Is pumpkin beer going the way of so many hype-trains before it? It won't go away, but we MIGHT just be done with the ubiquity of pumpkin beer. And that's just fine by me. There are so many other great styles that are perfect for fall, we even used to have a fest to feature them all (the sold-out Fall to Winter Fest, last held in 2014).
(Note: We realize the Google Trends data is just a measure of volume of people searching for "Pumpkin Beer." That said, we think it can be a good leading indicator for where consumer preference is as a macro-trend predictor, combined with some industry knowledge, gut feeling, and other corroborating information.)
Most importantly, what do YOU think? Do you love pumpkin beer and want to see more of it? Hate it and happy to see it go? Or even just enjoy it from time to time? Is it going to decline? Or is this just a blip? Let us know your thoughts.